Well, I noticed that I got my first follower today. Hi Abe. This one is dedicated to you. I hope you like it.
A pastor that I really enjoy is a fellow named Rob Bell. He is the pastor of Mars Hill in Grandville, Michigan. He is fairly controversial. Which is probably one of the reasons I like him so much. He is accused of being too identified with the whole "Emergent Church" movement, which I still don't understand very well.
At any rate, in his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, he points out that the Bible actually contains some pagan poetry. In the letter to the church at Rome, Paul quotes a Cretan poet and affirms it as being "True." Paul also quoted a line about Zeus when he was speaking to an audience in Athens. Bell points out that Paul affirmed truth wherever he found it. Now these pagan poets certainly were not thinking about the God of the Bible when they were writing their odes to Zeus, but Paul took one of their statements and made it about his God...and now it's a part of Scripture.
To quote Bell: " This affirming and claiming of truth wherever you find it is all through the writings of Paul. In 1 Corinthians, he tells his readers, "All things are yours,...and you are in Christ, and Christ is of God." He essentially says to them, "It all belongs to God, and Christ is of God, and you are of Christ, so...it's all yours. Claim it. If it is true, if it is beautiful, if it is honorable, if it is right, then claim it. Because it is from God. And you belong to God."
Think about that for a moment. Think how liberating that is.
Christians are often accused of living sheltered lives. That is certainly the perception that Outsiders have of us. (See my previous post about the UN-Christian book) I used to have some friends that would refuse to listen to secular music because it was "of the Devil." I had a friend in college who would only watch "Christian" TV shows, because all the other shows were sinful and such. Which got me thinking about the wickedness of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and Kaptain Kangaroo, and all the other shows I watched as a little kid. I had no idea that King Friday and Mr. Greenjeans were filling my tiny, naive mind with such poison & filth. How awful! It's a good thing I didn't move to Minnesota until the Casey Jone's show was off the air here. Who knows what type of cultic sway I might have fallen under.
Well, if Rob Bell is right, then it just might be OK to listen to some secular music from time to time. It might even be OK to watch some secular TV, or even...God forbid, read a book about post-modern architectural structures in New York City. Actually, I'm recalling a line from an old Steve Taylor song from back in the 80's where he jokes about Christians only associating with Christian approved people & things. He said, "I only buy milk from Christian cow."
If you think about it, there is "truth," and then there is "The Truth," and even "THE TRUTH." The ultimate TRUTH is Jesus. He said so himself. "I am the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." After Jesus, though, there are all kinds of things that are true & truthful, and YES, non-believers can say things and do things that are true, and beautiful...and even of God, whether they know it or not.
Obviously everyone knows that 2 + 2 = 4. You don't really have to know much about God to agree on that. But lets say that it is raining out side. It's raining like crazy, with big peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. Two of my friends come over to my place. One is a believer, the other is not. I ask them how bad the weather is. My non-christian friend says that it's really bad out there and that it looks like the bike ride is off. My Christian friend says, "What are you talking about? It's balmy & sunny out there."...and he really means what he is saying. Which one told the truth, and which one lied?
So, it's possible for Christians to not know the truth even when they are experiencing it. It's also possible for Outsiders to experience the truth and to be able to share it with others.
So why all this set up?
Let me tell you a little about my friend Abe. I first met Abe when he was just a kid working at the same store I worked at. Now he's a grown man with a young family. From what I can tell, he is probably going to be one of those Cool Dads. You know, the kind of dad that all the other kids wish they had. The kind that brings their kids to rock shows, WWF matches, and snow boarding...and then proceeds to out do his own kids on the jumps. He's a good musician! I still have a CD of his band that he recorded when he lived in South Africa. (I should probably try and find it in my mess and get it back to him one of these days.)
During the time that I met Abe I was not in a very good place spiritually. I was...and still am, dealing with some pain from a very bad experience at a church that I had worked for. I still had all of the Head Knowledge about Jesus, but my heart certainly wasn't where it should have been. (I doubt that it ever will be in this life.) Abe had plenty of his own struggles during this time. Maybe that's why we clicked. I don't know.
What I DO know is that God is incredibly faithful. His patience amazes me so much. I lost contact with Abe for about 10 years I would guess. Then one day, who should pop up on my Face Book page but Abe. It turns out that God had never left either of us, even when we were certainly less than faithful towards Him. Sometimes, God's grace and mercy is so powerful that it will make me tear up & cry for no apparent reason...kind of like I am doing at this moment. God, in His incomprehensible mercy brought us both back to a healthier relationship with Him. And then, eventually, Abe found me on the net.
I guess that Bono might be right when he sings "She moves in mysterious ways." (Sorry. Blasphemy, I know.)
One thing that Abe and I have in common is music. He can play it. All I can do is sing in the shower. But we both love the stuff. (Oh, the times my father has told me that he can HEAR my car before he can SEE it because my stereo is so loud. Although now it's mostly NPR being blasted. Ira Glass & Garrison Keillor will surely be to blame for my hearing loss.)
At any rate, Abe and I both love Neil Young. Many moons ago, he & I went to see Neil with his sometimes back-up band Crazy Horse at the Target Center in Minneapolis. One of the encore songs that night was a favorite of mine called "Like a Hurricane." Say what you will about his squeaky voice, Neil can get sounds of his guitar "Old Black," that still baffles musicians. He has been one of the most consistent performers that I have ever seen. Often, he will lose himself in a song and just become One with the music. If you been lucky enough to see a musician do that on a stage, then you know what I am talking about.
Well, Neil & the band charged into that song and just lost themselves in it. I don't remember the exact length that they played, but I do recall that it was at least 20 minutes. Not bad for a song that on the album only plays for about 7. At one point, Neil actually yanked the strings out of the tuning portion of Old Black and continued to play. I have no idea how he pulled that off, but he did...and it was excellent, beautiful and True. Frankly, it was amazing!!! (And I've been to a few concerts.)
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent
or praiseworthy - think about such things...
and the God of peace will be with you."
Neil Young is not a believer. However, IS it possible that God was trying to touch him at that moment because something so amazing and beautiful was flowing from his finger tips? Maybe. I would like to think so. God can use anything He pleases to reach out to people. I have seen un-believers come so close to the truth of God, the truth of Jesus, from time to time that it amazes me. I think about a guy like George Harrison who wrote songs about God for decades. I heard a quote from him years ago about his search for God & truth. It was something along the lines of "On the day I die, I don't want to be concerned that I might have left the kettle on." George followed the path of Hinduism, not the path of Jesus. But only God knows and can judge the human heart. Who knows what George was thinking and saying in his last moments?
The chorus line to Neil Young's song Like a Hurricane goes like this:
"You are like a hurricane.
There's calm in your eyes."
The song is about his wife, I believe. That is the songs proper meaning, if that is indeed the case. However, whenever I hear that song, the significance it holds for me is about Jesus...."There's calm in your eyes."
"Turn you eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of his glory and grace."
Actually, since I finally figured out how to post a video, I figured that I would go back and edit this one a bit. Here is a clip from Neil Young's concert film titled Rust Never Sleeps. It's a fairly odd video, to be sure. It is from 1979 when Neil was skinny and had hair. If you like it, feel free to grab a spatula or broom and play air guitar along with the video.
Abe, may the God of peace be with you always. :)
Your friend, Joe